Synopsis by Hans J. Wollstein
Produced and directed by exploitation specialist Dwain Esper and written by Mrs. Esper, Hildegarde Stade, this ultra low-budget "educational" melodrama not only defied logic but broke virtually every rule of narrative film-making. That would not necessarily be a detriment to a film ostensibly warning about the dangers of untreated insanity, but Maniac is so badly handled in an obvious attempt to both horrify and titillate that it defies description. Vaguely based on Poe's The Black Cat and referring in several scenes to the same author's Murders in the Rue Morgue, Maniac told a rambling, sometimes incoherent story of a vaudeville impersonator turned lab assistant to an insane scientist. Like most Mad Medicos, Dr. Meirschultz (Horace B. Carpenter) is attempting to bring dead tissue to life but this particular scientist is accidentally killed in the process. His assistant (Bill Woods) takes over his persona, walling up the dead doc in the process. The protagonist's increasing dementia -- which threatens to engulf the viewing audience as well -- is depicted via inserts from silent films such as Benjamin Christensen's classic Witchcraft Through the Ages and Fritz Lang's Siegfried. There is plenty of gratuitous feline footage and at one point the fake Dr. Meirschultz actually devours a cat's eye! ("Why," he exclaims, "It's not unlike a grape or an oyster!") For unexplained reasons, the faux doctor examines a couple of women in various stages of undress. The presence of these women remains vague and they never appear again. There is also a deranged person (Ted Edwards) who believes he is the re-incarnation of the orangutan killer in "Rue Morgue"; a couple of women fighting with syringes; and various shots of girls lounging about in their underwear for no apparent reason other than audience titillation. Like most exploitation melodramas, Maniac is cast with a mix of has-beens and unknown beginners who remained unknown. Poor Horace B. Carpenter, a silent era producer/director/actor who played whitehaired Western characters in sound films, was made a complete fool in a role perhaps written for the too-expensive Bela Lugosi. Bill Woods and Ted Edwards, as the vaudeville performer and the orangutan wannabe respectively, saw their careers go nowhere but down after Maniac.The Latter's wife, incidentally, was played by one Phyllis Diller, a starlet who had absolutely no connection to the later comedienne of the same name; and Marian Blackton, the sister of the film's assistant director and daughter of screen pioneer J. Stuart Blackton, appears in male drag as a cat-catching neighbor. Despite all that, Maniac actually delivered a lot less than it's lurid art-work promised, a fate it shared with the vast majority of exploitation melodramas.
brain, doctor/nurse, experiment, gore, killing, mad-scientist, maniac, rampage, rape, reanimation, search, secret-identity, victim, virtual-reality